Amp-Shootout

Sound is very difficult to describe, so we will leave this to professional reviewer. But the winner of the shootout was always unanimous voted. For a shootout there were at least three person who did their vote.

Shootout #1: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Marantz PM 17 M

Our #1 Shootout is between an actual Power Amp from Mcintosh and a 7 year old Marantz PM 17 M. The 252 is the smallest Solid State Power Amp right now from Mcintosh. It has a Rated Output of 250 Watts on 2,4 and 8 Ohms. This amp is terrific. I never heard something like this. The bass has a lot of punch, the midrange is gloriously present, lively, vivid and voices are incredible with this amp. The sound is complete transparant and cristal clear without to be on the harsh side. Maybe its for the autotransformers. The highs are absolutly smooth and fine.

But I don´t like to comment on every detail. You can listen to this amp for hours wíthout getting stressed. Its terrific, the music goes directly in your heart!

The Marantz PM 17 M sounds also very pleasant and natural. But it doesn´t have so much punch in the bass as the Mcintosh. Vocals are also very nice, but if you listen to Johnny Cash for example with the Mcintosh you really think with closed eyes that Johnny is really some meters ago from you. Its sound so natural. This effect you don´t have with the Marantz.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #2: Mcintosh MC 252 versus NAD 320 BEE

Okay, this is maybe a little mismatch. To do a long story short, the NAD 320 BEE had no chance at all against the Mcintosh. What is funny with the NAD, we noticed that the NAD has only one volume adjustment, where the amp really sounds nice. The NAD is not buildt for listners, who listen very loud or very quiet.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #3: Mcintosh MC 252 versus McIntosh MA 6300

We were a little bit disappointed from the Mcintosh MA 6300. Not that it did sound bad, but the amp is a little bit on the harsh side. Harsh? With a Mcintosh amp? Yes, the frist time that we listened to a Mcintosh and after one or two hours we wanted to stop our test. Maybe because the MA 6300 doesn´t have autoformers. Nevertheless it is still a fine amplifier but no match for the MC 252.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #4: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Marantz PM 14

The Marantz PM 14 was an absolutly fine surprise. The amp sounds very natural with a nice punch in the bass, smooth in the mid range and crital clear highs. Everything was as you supossed it should be. It was a tough race between these both amps, but after many hours in a blind test won the Mcintosh. He could do everything a litlle better (but very little, no big difference at all). And in the end the MC 252 won again, because you could hear with this amp hours and hours without stress.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #5: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Accuphase E 406V

As a little boy, I had two favorite audio firms. One was Mcintosh and the other one was Accuphase. And now for the first time I had one in my hands for a shootout. Okay it was not a complete new one, it was a 10 year old E 406V. And this amp was the biggest disappointment so far. The E 406V sounds to analytical. After 40 minutes we stopped listening to this amp. It sounded to harsh. I don´t know if this amp was broken or not. We didn´t check it. The owner of the Accuphase meant everything was fine, but was also surprised how much better in every aspect sounded the MC 252.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #6: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Mcintosh MC 2505

We bought in Ebay a 40 years old Mcintosh MC 2505. The amp was in a good shape (at least what you could sea). The MC 2505 was the first solid state power amp from Mcintosh. How did it sound? Very, very warm, almost like a tube, but we didn´t have the impression that it sounded "right" and natural.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #7: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Mcintosh MC 2205

I bought in very good shape a Mcintosh MC 2205 from Audioclassica. Audioclassica is a specialist to refurbish amps and tuners from Mcintosh. So the MC 2205 was in mint condition and also the sound surprised us, how good a 30 year old amp performed. The amp was produced between 1975 - 1979 and was the first Mcintosh amp with power guard. The MC 2205 sounds very similar as the MC 252. Maybe a little warmer, but not so warm as for example the MC 2505. Bass was completly controlled and not so fuzzy like the MC 2505. Mid range and highs sounded very smooth. Like the MC 252, the MC 2205 sounded completely unstressed. At the end the MC 252 won, because it sounded a little bit more natural and detailed. But it was a close race. And we asked ourselves, what happened in amplifier technology in the last 30 years?!

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #8: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Naim NAP 200/NAC 202

This was a very close match between the Combo from Naim against the MC 252. With the combo of Naim the music sounded very rhythmical and fluent. It was like with the MC 252, you didn´t listen to some specific points of the music like the bass, midrange and so on. No, you listen to the music. And we enjoied it! At the end won the MC 252 because the bass had more weight and a better punch. And with louder volumes (very loud indeed) the Naim had some problems with the Nautilus and with the Linn speakers (both are not easy to drive). But the Naim was a very, very good amp. But this "Plopp" noise when you switch on and off the Naim amp is a shame. Of course Naimees will tell me, that you should leave a Naim amp always on...

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #9: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Marantz PM 66 KI

Some of our friends came up with a Marantz PM 66 KI. And of course we started a new shootout. Like the other Marantz (PM 14; PM 17) the amp was a nice surprise wih a natural cristal clear sound without to tend in the harsh. Okay in the end the Marantz PM 66 KI had no chance against the MC 252. Also the owner of the Marantz had to admit this.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #10: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Telefunken TA 750

From the basement I brought my 29 year old Telefunken TA 750. It was my first amplifier which I owned in my life. Still it is in a good shape, but it had no chance at all against the MC 252. Everything from the Telefunken amplifier sounded like somebody switched on the loudness knob (but the knob was switched off). The sound was to warm and not natural.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #11:Mcintosh MC 252 versus Kenwood KA 990

The second amp in my life was this Kenwood KA 990 from 1986. From the sound it was not so warm like the Telefunken but the amp tended to be a little bit harsh.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #12: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Luxman 505u

The Luxman is a very nice sounding amp with a bass which has a very good punch, exactly like the MC 252. Mid range and highs are a little bit on the warmer side. The MC 252 sounded more natural, more fluent. Especially voices and guitar music are incredible with the MC 252. It sounds so absolut neutral. You can hear the vibration of the guitar from Johnny Cash. The Luxman couldn´t compete with this. But the Luxman was a surprise how much fun it delivered, especially with songs from Led Zeppelin. Great amp.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #13: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Naim Nait 3

This was a very nice Shootout. The Naim Nait 3 sounded absolutly great with voices and guitar (and this is the music which I love; for example Johnny Cash). But the Naim Nait 3 had no punch in the bass and the highs were not there. So it was very difficult to give a rank to this amp. The midrange is among the best 4. The bass and the highs are among the worst. So we gave the amp a middle position.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #14: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Yamaha A 1000

My dad has a Yamaha A 1000 amp. The amp is from 1985 and still in a good shape. Bass are very nice, with a lot of punch.But the amp sounded a little bit analically in the mid range and in the highs. Almost the same sound like the Accuphase E 406V.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #15: Mcintosh MC 252 versus Accuphase E 350 

We were very happy. Now we had again the chance to hear a Accuphase. The brand-new E 350. We were curious about this shootout. In my house we had 5 people who listened to the music. To make a long story short, the Accuphase E 350 could recapture the honor of the Accuphase company (after the bad result of the E 406V). It didn´t win the shootout, but it was very close. The E 350 sounded maybe a little bit more detailed than the Mcintosh. The bass had a very good punch like the Mcintosh, maybe a little bit firmer. Midrange was very good, but there the Mcintosh won the race. It is incredible how natural voices and guitars sounded with the Mcintosh. For the first time, we didn´t have an unanimous vote. The Mcintosh won by 4:1 votes.

The E 350 had nothing from the harshness of the E 406V. We could listen to the music for hours with this amp. Complete different amp than the E 406V (somehow I still think, that something was not correct with the E 406V). We couldn´t compare the Accuphase with the Naim Combo 200/202. But we gave the Accuphase the seconed position, because we remembered that the Naim had some problems with very loud volume. The Accuphase had no problems at all with loud volumes.   

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #16: Mcintosh MC 252 versus LUA 4040C

For the first time, we had in a shootout a tube amp. The LUA 4040C is from a german manufacturer who is specialized in tube amplifiers. The LUA 4040C almost sounded like the Naim Nait 3. The midrange was absolutly sweet and lovely to listen. But in comparison to the Mcintosh the bass had no so much punch, but had more punch than the solid state amp Naim Nait 3. Highs were also more present than with the Naim Nait 3. But against the Mcintosh MC 252 the LUA had no chance. But after two hours of listening to the tube amp, we could understand, why so many people love the sound of tube amps. The mid ranges are so sweet.... For me it was wunderful, because (as you know now) I love voices and guitar. And the LUA could bring this mid range with wunderful "colours".

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252

Shootout #17: Mcintosh MC252/C45 versus Sony F670ES

Since Shootout #17 we use a wunderful Mcintosh C45 preamp for our power amps. The reason for this change was, that I wanted to have a tuner in my equipment and so I bought the Mcintosh C45 preamp with the Tuner modul TM1 installed. Actually the tuner sounds very nice. So but now back to our shootouts. 

This time we have an shootout against a Sony amplifier of the Esprit series. The amp was produced in the nineties. Again our MC 252 sounded wunderful, also with the preamp C45, what was not really a surprise.....

But the Sony F670 ES was a very nice surprice. Clear sound, good punch.

Voices and guitar was not so nice like with the MC 252/C45.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252/C45

Shootout #18: Mcintosh MC252/C45 versus Pioneer A 616

Also a very nice surprise was the Pionner A 616. I think the Pionner A 616 was build in the end of the eighties. It sounded almost like the Sony F670 ES. Good punch, clear sound. A little bit harsh maybe. 

Winner: Mcintosh MC 252C45

 

Shootout #19: Mcintosh MC252/C45 versus Mcintosh MC2505(refurbished)/C45

I bought in very good shape a Mcintosh MC 2505 from Audioclassica. This is the second amp I bought from Audioclassica. Five months ago I bought a Mcintosh Mc 2205 (see Shootout #7) from Audioclassica and I am till today very pleased with the MC 2205. So I thought it would be a good idea to buy a Mcintosh MC 2505 completly refurbished from Audioclassica. And it was a great idea, as you know from Shootout #6, I bought once a MC2505 in Ebay. It seemed in good shape but it didn´t sound so good. 

But this refurbished MC 2505 from Audioclassica sounded great. Warm, but not so warm as for example the MC 2505 from Ebay. The refurbished one had a cristal clear sound, with a good punch. It never sounded harsh. Bass had good control. Mid range and highs sounded very smooth. Like the MC 252, the MC 2505 sounded completly unstressful. Okay at the end the MC 252 won, because it sounded a litlle bit more natural, detailed and had more punch.

But we loved the 2505, absolutly great amp. And the MC 2505 is 40 years old! It was the first solid state power amp from Mcintosh together with the MC 250. Both are the same amps, only difference was, that the MC 2505 had this wunderful blue eyes.....

Winner: Mcintosh Mc 252/C45

Shootout #20: Mcintosh MC252/C45 versus Mcintosh MC452/C50

Mcintosh has since the beginning of 2011 a new line of pre-amplifier and power amps. I bought from the new line the pre amp C50 and the new power amp MC 452. Both are wonderful designed. The C50 has now also a 32 Bit DAC inside, which I use with my Sooloos system.

The MC 452 has a rated output of 450 Watt between 20 to 20 Khz. But I am absolutly sure, that a Stereophile test will come up, with something like 700 Watts per channel in a future test. As we all now, McIntosh is understatement pure.

So I installed the new "beast" (65 kilos including package; my fingers, shoulder and back still hurts) and we made the blind test against our existing champion MC252/C45.

Four people were in the blind test and it was a close race. The only one who heard always a difference was my son; his statistics were 10:0. And always won the combo MC 452/C 50. The other three voted 7:3, 7:3 and 6:4 for the MC 452/C50. But every statistic guy will tell you that statisicly this is not a very relavant result. But never mind, we have after 20 shootouts a new winner: The MC452 together with the C50 (what is actually very bad for my back...to move arround the winner in the future for further shootouts)

Why won the MC 452/C50? Because is the best sound we ever heard in our lives, from very quiet to very, very loud. Actually there was the difference to the MC 252/C45 Combo, when we played very, very, very loud (the neighbor from 100 yards ago came to complain about the noise!), the MC 452 was the better amp when we played very, very, very loud (of course, when you have more power, the needle was by 900 Watts...). This amp is terrific. The bass has even more punch and accuracy than the MC 252, the midrange is gloriously present, lively, vivid and voices are even more incredible with this amp than with the MC252. The sound is complete transparant and cristal clear. The difference to the MC252 are subtle, but you can hear it. But I don´t like to comment on every detail. You can listen to both combos for hours wíthout getting stressed. . Vocals are absolut great and natural for both combos. With both amps you can hear for days, what I will do now!

Winner: MC452/C50

 Shootout #21: Mcintosh MC452/C50 versus Accuphase E 560

For our Shootout #21 we had an absolut great contender: the new Accuphase E 560. It is an integrated amp which works in Class A. It has 2*30 Watts on 8 Ohm, but was masurded in german Stereo magazines with 2*60 Watts. It seems that Accuphase has the same Understatment like Mcintosh in its power rating.

Our blind test were great, but actually we couldn´t hear any difference between Accuphase and Mcintosh. Again only my son could hear some subtle difference in favor for the Mcintosh. Bút as I mentioned in some Shootouts before, I think he has some trick...

Both contenders sounded absolut great, smooth and transparent. The only difference - and for that reason the Mcintosh combo will the winner of this content - was when we played rock very, very, very loud. Then the Mcintosh was clearer and completly unstressed in comparrison to the Accuphase. But under 25 Watts of power both amps sound absolut equal. No difference hearable. If somebody tell you in Audio magazine something different, than I only can tell you, they didn´t do a blind test.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 452/C50

Shootout #22: Mcintosh MC452/C50 versus Mcintosh C 34V

I bought in Ebay a Mcintosh C 34V and let it refurbished by Audioclassica. The Mcintosh C 34V is offically a preamplifier, but it has a "monitor amplifier" with 2*20 Watts. So I used the C 34V in this comparisson as an integrated amp.

The C 34V is 20 years old, but his sound was stunning. All music material which we played were transparent, dynamic and smooth. This is an outstanding amp, which has also a lot of features to play with, like an 5 band equalizer,  loudness control and a compander system which is great when you listen phono.

From low till high frequence, we had always the impression that this was the "true" sound like it came from the CD or from vinyl. Voices sounded great like with all Mcintosh systems. Of course with 20 Watts the C 34V was not made for absolut loud volume.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 452/C50

Shootout #23: Mcintosh MC 452/C50 versus Eternal Arts OTL Mark II

The owner of the High End company Eternal Arts gave me his power amp OTL Mark II for a tryout. This amp is a tube amp, which works wihout output transformers, based on the Futterman principle. The power amp has 2*30 Watts on 8 ohms and even 2*55 Watts on 16 ohms. The issue is, that below 8 ohms the amp has almost no power. In a German Hifi magazine is was tested 2*12 Watts on 4 ohms. The issue was now, that my loudspeakers (Linn 242) which we take for our blind test have an impedance minimum of 2,9 ohms. So of course this was not the right match. You could hear it immediately that this combination was a mismatch. So for that reason the Mcintosh MC 452/C 50 combo was the winner of the shootout.

But than we took the Eternal Arts amp to my third stereo system which has a Spendor SP 3/1 R2 as loudspeaker. This combination was a great match. The sound was absolut clear, almost magical, but it had nothing at all to do with a warm tube sound. Bass, midrange and the highs were all in a wonderful harmony. We didn´t compare it to the Mcintosh MC 452/C50, because first of all, I don´t want to move my beloved MC 452 (50kg!) and secondly all blind test in this shootouts were done so far in my first or second stereo system (look under test equipment).

But we made a comparison against the power amp which is in the third system the Mcintosh Mc 2505, and the Eternal Arts were the winner with a big margin.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 452/C50

Shootout #24: Mcintosh MC 452/C50 versus Mcintosh MC 2125/C50

As a Mcintosh collector, I am happy, that I had the chance to buy in very good shape a refurbished MC 2125. This amp has exact the same sound signature like the MC 2205 - with only one difference - when you wanted to play very, very loud the MC 2205 has more reserves. But the rest is the same.

Bass was completly controlled. Mid range and highs sounded very smooth. Like the MC 452, the MC 2125 sounded completely unstressed. At the end the MC 452 won, because it sounded in all aspects a little bit more natural, detailed and higher sophisticated.

But like with the MC 2205, we were amazed how good a refurbished power amp from the 70ies sounds today.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 452/C50

Shootout #25: Mcintosh MC 452/C50 versus Luxman M-05/Mcintosh C50

My last purchase was an old dream of mine: a Luxman M-05 one of the most famous amps in the world. On the internet page "thevintageknob" is a very good discription about this amp.

The Luxman M-05 is fully dual-mono (with two powercords!) build from 1984 til 1988, with superlative componentry, real Class A which can deliver 2*105 watts on 8 ohms housed in non-magnetic and copper-plated aluminium chassis which has also two fans which has three different speeds. Build quality is unbelivable good, on the same level like Mcintosh or Accuphase.

The blind test session was one of the best we ever had. The Luxman M-05 is an absolut great amp, with a bass which was maybe together with the MC 452 the best "punchiest" bass we ever heard so far. You have to hear a drum with this amp. It is absolut great. Midrange was smooth, voices very nice and soft. But highs were not so good like with the Mcintosh MC 452. The were a little, little bit on the harsh side, so the winner was the Mcintosh MC 452.

But I asked myself after the blind test, do I collect the wrong brand?! Should I collect Luxman instead of Mcintosh??? One thing is clear, I have to search for a new Luxman power amp to have the chance to listen to it. How will this compare to a nem Mcintosh amp. This will be really interesting.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 452/C50

Shootout #26: Mcintosh MC 452/C50 versus Accuphase A60/Mcintosh C50

I bought one of my "dream" power amplifier in the last month, an Accuphase A 60. The Accuphase operates in class-A. The overall build quality appears to be exemplary, maybe the best I ever reviewed so far. The A-60’s Mosfet output stage comprises ten pairs of devices per channel, and its 60Wpc output on 8 Ohm reportedly doubles into 4 ohms, and again into 2 ohms. In a German audio magazine it was reviewed with 2 * 110 Watts into 8 Ohm and 2* 220 Watts into 4 Ohm. It seems that prospect data from Accuphase is so understated like the Mcintosh data.

How did the A 60 sound? We had the impression, that the A 60 had no own sound at all. It sounds completly neutral. At the beginning this is maybe very unspectucalar, for example a Luxman M-05 (Shootout 25) has more punch in the low frequency. But was this the truth or the original music. I don´t know, but when you listen to the A 60, than with the time you have the impression that this the pure music. Very smooth from the low till the high frequecy. 

Who won the shootout? The MC 452 is also a very neutral power amp in the best sense. Actually there was no difference in a blind test when we played normal volume (till 95 dB). When we played with 110 dB the MC 452 had more headroom and more reserves than the A60. But the Accuphase A 60 is a wonderful amp, and in build quality it is the best.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 452/C50

 

Shootout #27: Mcintosh MC 452/C50 versus Mcintosh MC 601/ Mcintosh C50

A friend bought one month ago the new mono power amps from Mcintosh, the MC 601. They look glorious with the big blue eyes, which covers almost the whole front face. Power output is 600 Watt per channel, but in a english review this power amp was tested with almost 2.000 Watt! The MC 452 was reviewed by a italian audio magazin with 1183 Watt into 4 Ohms. Mcintosh is big understatment in the prospect data.

After we hooked up everything (which is very difficult, because the MC 601 is almost so heavy like the MC 452, we started with our tests. When we didn´t do a blind test, we had the impression that the MC 601 has the same neutral sonic signature like the MC 452, only in the bass we had the impression, that the MC 601 had a little, little bit more punch than the MC 452.

But when we began with the bind test, we stopped after short time, because there was no difference at all. Also when we played with maximum volume (124 dB by ca. 900 Watts) which the loudspeaker can handle there was no difference at all. In the last shootouts we had the same issue with the Mcintosh MC 452 and the Accuphase A 60 that there was almost no sonic differences hearable. The Mcintosh MC 452 won these test with its pure power. This time the MC 601 couldn´t win this with its pure power, because the loudspeakers Linn 242 cannot handle more than 900 Watts. And the MC 452 can deliver this power. So its a tie, no sonic differences at all.

Winner: Both

PD: I tried both amps some weeks more and we had the impression, that with certain musical material there was a slight difference between MC 601 and MC 452 in favor of the MC 601. And I could achieve some new maximum volume also on certain musical with specific frequences with the MC 601 which could handle the LInn 242 (max 125,6 dB, peak 130 dB). For that reason at the end I bought a new MC 601 to get the maximum out of my loudspeakers. And ofcourse I bought the MC 601 also, because its look is absolut great.

PDD: After 6 months I have to say, that this maybe the best purchase in my "Hifi Live" together with the Linn 242, Harbeth M30.1 / P3ESR and the Accuphase A 100.

Shootout #28: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Mcintosh MC 275/ 50th Anneversary/Mcintosh C50

A friend of mine came over with his newest acquisition a Mcintosh MC 275 50 th Anneversary. I don´t think that I have to introduce this amp. It is was one of the best known tube amps on earth. It has 75 Watt per channel.

The sound of the tube amp is very neutral and reveals very good the music. the amp doesn´t sound at all like a "tube amp". The sound of the MC 275 had nothing "warm". Strength of this amp is the mid range. Voices are great. Bass was a little bit shy in comparison to the MC 601. It is the best tube amp, which we compared so far. But as you know, I like to listen to loud volume and than the MC 275 had no chance at all against an amp like the MC 601.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 601/C50

Shootout #29: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Accuphase A100/Mcintosh C50

I bought my seconed "dream" power amplifier last month, a Accuphase A 100. The Accuphase operates in class-A and are mono blocs. Every mono bloc weight 57 Kg! The overall build quality appears to be exemplary, maybe the best I ever reviewed so far together with the Accuphase A 60. And the A 100 is 15 years old. The A-100’s Mosfet output stage comprises 20 pairs of devices per channel, and its 100Wpc output reportedly doubles into 4 ohms, and again into 2 ohms. In a German audio magazine it was reviewed with 180 Watts into 8 Ohm, 320 Watts into 4 Ohm and 560 Watts into 2 Ohm. It seems that prospect data from Accuphase is so understated like the Mcintosh data.

How did the A 100 sound? This was the best sound ever which we heard on orchestra and piano music. The sound of the piano was so real that we thought that there had to be a piano in the room. It was great. Things changed when we played rock music, the A 100 was still great, but against the brutal power of the MC 601 it could not compete. Bass hammers we more focused and "punchier" with the MC 601.

But back to the piano music. The A 100 is so neutral. Sound is like 3D. So real, wonderful. I don´t know, but when you listen to the A 100, than with the time you have the impression that this is pure music (the same happened when we audited the Accuphase A 60). Very smooth from the low till the high frequecy.

Who won the shootout? Both are the best amps we ever compared. If you like more  rock music, the Mcintosh MC 601 is the winner. If you like more classical music, there is nothing better than the Accuphase A 100.

Winner: with rock/pop music: Mcintosh MC 601/C50;

Winner: with classical/piano music: Accuphase A 100

Shootout #30: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Air Tight ATM 300/ Mcintosh C50

I bought one of my old dreams a SET tube amp with a 300B tube called Air Tight 300. Quality and design of this wonderful japanese amp is great. Of course this amp has only 8 Watt per channel. This was not enogh to drive the difficult loudspeaker Linn 242. Linn 242 has a minimum Impedane a little bit above 2 Ohms. This is a complete mismatch for a Single Ended Tube like the Air Tight 300.

But the Linn 242 is always our test competition speaker. Afterwards we tried the Air Tight with a Harbeth P3ESR and a Harbeth M30.1. Both have minimum impedances of more than 6 Ohm.

What a wonderful sound. If you don´t want to listen very loud this is one of best combination I ever heard in my life. This amp doesn´t sound warm as you would maybe expect. This amp sounds neutral but reveals everything what is in the CD. On many CD we discovered new instruments. This was unbelivable.

So like always, if you have a tube amp, it is very important how you match this amp. With our official test speaker is was a desaster, with Harbeth speakers it was A+. 

Winner: Mcintosh MC 601/C50

Shootout #31: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Creek Evolution 50A

For our next shootout we had the new Creek amplifier. It looks very nice, it is a very Slim unit below 1.000€. Quality of the unit is. quite good for the price.

The Creek amp offers a nice sound till ca. 95dB. Over this sound pressure Level the amp sounded a little bit harsh. But for the price it is a great unit. Sound below 95dB was very clean, with a good bass. But the strength of the amp is the midband. This is smooth, but not super smooth like a Devialet amp.

Good value for the money.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 601/C50

Shootout #32: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Exposure 2010S2

Almost like the Creek amp was the sound of the Exposure 2010S2. Very nice and open sound till a certain sound pressure level and over this level  the amp gets a little bit harsh. The effect is a little bit later as with the Creek amp. It costs a Little bit more than the Creek amp, both have our highest recommendation for the money.

For normal sound Level this is very nice and neutral amp.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 601/C50

Shootout #33: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Devialet 110

Devialet is a new brand in the Hifi Business. My favorite dealer was so nice to bring to our shootout the Devialet 110. This means that this integrated amplifier, which has also a DAC inside can deliver 110 Watts into 6 Ohm. The amp is a hybrid of Class A voltage ampliivation with precision Class D current dumpers. The amp is very Slim, maybe 5 cm high and Looks very pretty.

The sound was stunning. This amp sounds so smooth and on the other hand reveals everything. Bass is there and the mid band is absolut creamy. We loved it. I lack the words in english to describe this wonderful sound.

It remembers me a little bit on the Air Tight 300B, which is a SET amp, but the Devialet a lot more power. I could hear with Devialet details, which I had heard before only with the Air Tight. The Devialet has also no noise floor at all. Amazing.

The Devialet had no problems at all to drive the Linn loudspeakers, which are difficult loudspeakers to drive. The Mcintosh Combo won the shootout, like so often, when we made our shootout with a level of 105dB. There you could notice on some symphony tracks, that the Mcintosh has more headroom. But with normal Levels the Devialet is the best amp, we ever heard under 10.000€. And the Devialet 110 costs only 5.000€ including a DAC and Wifi.

For us the Devialet is a sensation and  a revolution. It will go to my collection.

Winner: Mcintosh MC 601/C50

Shootout #34: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Mcintosh C33

My brother came over with his new purchase a Mcintosh C33. The Mcintosh C 33 is offically a preamplifier, but it has a "monitor amplifier" with 2*20 Watts. So we used the C 34V in this comparisson as an integrated amp.

The C 33 is 30 years old, but his sound was stunning. All music material which we played were transparent, dynamic and smooth. This is an outstanding amp, which has also a lot of features to play with, like an 5 band equalizer,  loudness control and a compander system which is great when you listen phono.

From low till high frequence, we had always the impression that this was the "true" sound like it came from the CD or from vinyl. Voices sounded great like with all Mcintosh systems. Of course with 20 Watts the C 33 was not made for absolut loud volume. We made a shootout comparison also against my C34V, but we could not found any sound differences at all. We don´t know, what are the technichal differences. For me it seems so, that the only difference is that the C33 has two phono Inputs, and the C34 has only has one phono Input.

Overall we were again impressed how good was the sound of a Mcintosh unit which is 30 years old and refurbished by Audioclassica.

Winner: Mcintosh MC601/C50

Shootout #35: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Mcintosh MC501/C50

The MC 501 is a mono amp and the predecessor of the MC 601. It has a rated output of 500 Watts on 2,4 and 8 Ohms. This amp is terrific. The bass has a lot of punch, the midrange is gloriously present, lively, vivid and voices are incredible with this amp. The sound is complete transparant and cristal clear without to be on the harsh side. Maybe its for the autotransformers. The highs are absolutly smooth and fine. 

Since this shootout we take in addition to the Linn 242 also the Magico S1 as test loudspeaker.

The Magico S1 is an extremly neutal, transparent and revealing loudspeaker. For the amps is not so a demanding load like the Linn 242, but on the other hand the Magico S1 does not have a very high sensitivity. So you need a load of power to drive this loudspeaker. 

The MC 601 seemed a little bit more neutral and revealing than the MC 501, especally if we heard with Magico S1. Both had the same punch and dynamic which I love so much with Mcintosh amps. But the MC 601 could reveal a little bit more the music than the MC 501.  For that reason it won the shootout.

Than we made an additional test against the MC 252. And we could hear no difference at all between MC 501 and MC 252. The happened to us once, when we compared the MC 452 and MC 601.

Winner: Mcintosh MC601/C50

Shootout #36: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Audio Research Ref 75/Mcintosh C50

The Audio Research Ref 75 has an output of 75 Watt into 4 and 8 Ohm. It works with four KT 120 vacuum tubes. The sound of the tube amp is neutral and reveals very good the music. Strength of this amp is the mid range. Voices are great. Bass was also very punchy but ofcourse not so strong and defined like the MC 601. It is the best tube amp, which we compared so far together with the Mcintosh MC 275. But as you know, I like to listen to loud volume and than the Ref 75 had no chance at all against an amp like the MC 601.

We had also the impression that the  Ref 75 cannot deliver 75 Watt into 4 and 8 Ohm. We had this Impression when we matched the Ref 75 together with the Magico S1 which has not a very high sensitivity, the Audio Research Ref 75 came very fast in a clipping modus. At the same sound pressure level the Accuphase A60 showed 30 Watts...and the Accuphase Display is extremly accurate.

One last remark about the Audio Research Ref 75, which I couldn´t read not in one of the many reviews about the Ref 75, fit and finish, touch  and feel, is very dissapointing for a 10.000€ amp.

Winner: Mcintosh MC601/C50

Shootout #37: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Spectral Audio DMC15SS/DMA 200Series2

Since 20 years I have the dream to buy a Spectral Audio amp.Now after 20 years I fulfilled my dream and bought a Spectral 15SS/DMA 200Series2 for my new Magico S1. Magico S1 is an extrem transparent and revolving loudspeaker and I wanted to put them with an amp which has the fame to be extremly fast and transparent.

How did it sound? Hmm, it depends on what you like. With Classical Music it was the best combination I heard so far. The CD "Wagner without Words" took you the breath away, when you listened to it with this amps. If you have CD´s which are good recorded, it sounded great, all other CD´s you could forget with this amps. I never listened to the Spectral amps longer than for an hour, and normally I listen far longer to music.

Also with Rock Music, we were a little bit dissapointed. Bass was very lean, it sounded like you listen to electrostatic loudspeakers. Other amps have far bigger punch in the bass. But maybe these amps are doing too much in the bass aera?! Who knows? But for my taste, the bass was to lean with the Spectral amps. So I sold them now after two months. I was also not absolut happy with the fit and finish for this very expensive products.

Winner: Mcintosh MC601/C50

Shootout #38: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Accuphase A60/C2420

I bought the new Accuphase preamp C2420 to match it with my Accuphase A60 power amp, which I own since some years (together with a C290). First of all, I have to say that the fit and finish, touch and feel of Accuphase is the best in the whole Audio industry.This gives you pride of ownership.

In combination with the Magico S1, this was a combination made in heaven. It has very high transperancy with a little bit of "warmth" in the sound. I love this sound, mids and treble are like silk and bass has very good punch. I listen 10 hours in a row to this combination! Who won the blind test? The MC 601/C50 is also a wonderful combination, also very transparent with high resolution and also with this little bit of "warmth" in the sound, which we like so much. So it was a tie, because this time we made the blind test "only" til 100dB SPL. The advantage of the MC 601 would come wih higher SPL´s because it has more power.

Winner: Both

Shootout #39: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Accuphase A70/C2420

We are listening since one hour the CD "Wagner without words". Right now, we are listening to Siegfrieds funeral march and my eyes have some tears. It is so beautiful and touching. We are in the middle of a blind test and listening more than one hour to the same amp. So far this never happened. The rules are clear, we have to switch the amps after one song to get a better feeling for the differences between the amps. And now we don´t care for our rules, we want to listen to the music. It is so emotional. Which amp is playing. As we later discover, we are listening to the all new Accuphase A70 together with Accuphase C2420, CD Player was Accuphase DP 510 with Magico S1 speakers. I sold my Accuphase A60 to get this new Baby. Touch, feel and design is again outstanding from Accuphase. Actually I like more the design from the A70 than from the A60. There are subtle changes which have a great impact overall.

The A-70’s Mosfet output stage comprises ten pairs of devices per channel, and its 60Wpc output on 8 Ohm reportedly doubles into 4 ohms, and again into 2 ohms, all in Class A. But the headroom is by far higher, for 4 Ohms you have a headroom of 232 Watt and for 2 Ohms you have a headroom of 370 Watt. With the Linn 242, which has an impendance low of ca. 2.6Ohm, I saw once 295 Watt on the digital power meters which are showing true power values.

The sound is extremly smooth, it is liquid. Unbelivable, with the Magico S1 it felt like heaven. It is better than the Accuphase A60? I don´t know, because I sold the A60 to get the A70 and without blindtest all is guessing. And I never heard the A60 with Magico S1. It was bundled with Harbeth speakers. So do we have a new Benchmark? A new winner, which will beat my beloved Mcintosh MC601/C50 combo. Yes and no!

With Magico S1 speakers the Accuphasee A 70 won by 7:4 votes (which is actually in a blind test not very relevant statisticly). But almost all of our blind test are based on the speakers Linn 242. and here we had a tie when we listened to 80dB and 90dB SPL. But the Mcintosh MC601 could win (11:0) votes, when we played on a SPL level of 105dB. Like in the past in other blind test, here the Mcintosh MC 601 is unbeatable for íts sheer power and headroom. The Accuphase A70 came to its limit.

With the Magico S1 speakers, we didn´t do this test. Our SPL level  was 80 and 95dB. More SPL´s can the Magico S1 not taken. It is getting compresssed. Magico S1 is an extrem revealing speaker and it works like silk and liquid with the Accuphase A70. With the Mcintosh Ccmbo it was also smooth and liquid, but the water was clearer with the Accuphase A70.

So in the end it was a tie, if you have a Magico speaker I would prefer the Accuphase A 70, but our list is based on the Linn 242 (a wonderful speaker, a Stereophile classs A component some years ago).

Winner: Both

Shootout #40: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Rogue Audio 90/ C50

A friend  of my son came with his new used aquisition: a Rogue Audio 90 power tube amp. This was the first time for me to listen to this brand. Rogue Audio is from the US. For a tube power amp it is quiet strong with 90 Watt/8Ohms. Fit and finish is okay but not great.

The shootout was a great dissapointment. The  Rogue Audio  90 sounded like a lame duck. The amp had no dynamics at all. Of course we thought that one of the tubes were gone bad. We massuered the bias which is included as a measuerment Instrument inside of the amp, but everything seemed fine.

We listened again to the amp and we got again this boring, lame sound almost without bass. We checked again, we replaced all tubes (KT 88) with replacement tubes but still the same lame sound. I looked up in the Internet the reviews for this brand and they were all great, so I am quite convinced that something was wrong with this amp, even if we couldn´t find something. 

Winner: Mcintosh MC 601/C50

Shootout #41: Mcintosh MC 601/C50 versus Jeff Rowland Continuum 250 integrated

Since a very long time I wanted to buy for my collection a Jeff Rowland amp. So the dealer brought me to finally convince me a Jeff Rowland Continuum 250 integrated amp, which can deliver 250Watt into 8 Ohm and 500 Watt into 4 Ohm. The amp works in class D.

First of all, I have to say that fit and finish is world class, almost on the same level as my Accuphase amps. We started with the blind test, but the Jeff Rowland amp couldn´t convince us. How should I describe it?! The tone didn´t want to open up. Everything seemed behind a curtain. A little bit dull also. I talked with the dealer, he told me that it is very important, that the amp is a long time switched on and that the amp which he gave me for demonstration is quite new and less used (8 months). I was a little bit confused because the Jeff Rowland Continuum 250 was now three hours switched on. And should I wait til the amp is three years old to go with the blind test?!. For me all this is very strange. I know the gossips, that the amps will be better over the time like red wine. For speakers I can understand this gossip, but for amps?! We reviewed once a completly new Mcintosh MC 452 against my used Mcintosh MC 452. Nobody at all could tell the differences in a blind test. So we stopped the blind test with the Jeff Rowland amp, it was really a big dissapointment and of course I didn´t bought the amp.

Later the dealer told me, that "something" was not right with the amp, but for me it sounded a little bit like a excuse for the bad performance.

PD:  I talked later again with my daughter who switches the cables. In the meantime we have to leave the test room. Normally if she switches cables, she mutes the preamp, but this time she switched on and off the Jeff Rowland amp, because this amp has a switch on the backside of the amp. So the amp, was not continous switched on three hours as I mentioned before. And it seems that the Jeff Rowland amp reacts negative on switching on and off. So I have to apologize to Jeff Rowland. 

Winner: Mcintosh MC 601/C50

Shootout #42: Mcintosh MC601/C50 versus Sony TA-N 86B/TA-E 86B

Since five years I am looking for the Sony TA-N 86B/TA-E 86B combo. This combo was produced at the end oft the 70ths and was a big success for Sony. The Sony TA-N 86B is not a class D amp, this was the Sony TA-N 88B. The power amp delivers 18Watts/8 Ohm in class A and 80 Watts/8 Ohms in class B. I bought the combo in a good status but it was not refurbished. So this you have to take into consideration if you read the results oft he blind test.

The Sony combo sounded a little bit muddy, it didn´t matter if we listened to class A or B, the sound was not transparent at all. I assume, that the sound was so bad, because the combo is not refurbished. But so far I couldn´t find somebody who wanted to refresh this unit (at least without paying a fortune).

 Winner: Mcintosh MC601/C50

Shootout #43: Mcintosh MC601/C50 versus Exposure 3010S2 Pre/Power

 For our next blind test, we had the Exposure 3010S2 Pre and Stereo Power combo. Fit and finish is good but not on the same level like Accuphase. But for the price of 2.500€ finish is quite good. And the sound is excellent for this price. Actually in turn of price/sound relation this was the best combo ever.

Sound was cristal clear, bass came with authority, only the mids were not so liqiud and nice like with the Mcintosh combo. But the differences were very small and subtle. And like always the Mcintosh combo was better when we compared the amps in a very loud SPL level (105dB). Than the Exposure had no chance against the Mcintosh because the power amp has „only“ 110 Watts into 8 Ohms. And on Mahlers 2nd you can hear the dynamics differences. But for the money the Exposure is absolut great. Actually more amp than the Exposure you don´t need under normal cicumstances.

 Winner: Mcintosh MC601/C50

Shootout #44: Mcintosh MC601/C50 versus Mcintosh MC152/C50

We  moved in a new wonderful house, and I thought it would be a good idea to buy one of the new 4K OLED TVs from LG for our bedroom. I have to say the new TV is breathtaking. The  only downside was, that I had to stack now my hifi equipment over each other that the TV has enough space. But the MC 252 which I had so far in our bedroom is not the right amp to stack. MC 252 is not deep enough to put the CD Player MCD 301 on it.  So I thought it is time to buy a new Mcintosh amp: the MC 152. I have to say, that was one of the best decision ever.

MC 152 delivers 150 Watt stereo into 2, 4 and 8 Ohms and has autoformers. The amp looks very good and slim with only 15cm of height (ask my wife, she loves it). The amp has only buttons to push instead of the traditional switches from Mcintosh amps. I liked it. Fit and finish was excellent. I had the impression even better than my beloved MC 252. The amp cost officially almost 6.000€ but I got a huge discount as a good client. And the sound is excellent for this price. Actually in turn of price/sound relation this was the best amp ever from Mcintosh.

Sound was extremly transparent and cristal clear. Bass came with authority, the mids were very liqiud and nice like with the Mcintosh MC 601 combo. Till 100 dB there was no difference at all. And like always the Mcintosh  MC 601 combo was better when we compared the amps in a very loud SPL level (105dB). Than the MC 152 was slightly worse, but surprisingly we are only talking about subtle differences.

We did a further blind test against the MC 252 and the MC 152 won by 5:3 votes. MC 152 was a little bit smoother. The overall sonic behavior is the same like the MC 452, 302 and the MC 601. Well done!

 Winner: Mcintosh MC601/C50

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The sound differences in the shootouts are small and subtle. To give an better overview, we made after every amp a valuation:

A+ is the best, E- is the worst

Rankings after Shootout #41:

1. Accuphase A70/C2420      A+ (with Magico S1 and classical music til 95dB SPL A++ )

1. Mcintosh MC 601/C50       A+ (for extreme volume A++)

1. Mcintosh MC 452/C50       A+

1. Accuphase A 60/C2420      A+

1. Accuphase A 100/Mcintosh C50  A+

6. Mcintosh MC 152/Mcintosh C50 A+

6. Spectral Audio15SS/DMA200Series2 A+(for Classic A++,for Rock A)

8. Accuphase E 560              A+

9. Mcintosh MC 501/C50       A+

9. Mcintosh MC 252/C45       A+

9. Devialet 110                        A+

12. Luxman M-05                     A+

13. Accuphase E 350              A+

14. Mcintosh MC 275/C50         A

14. Audio Research Ref 75/Mcintosh C50 A

14. Exposure 3020 S2 Pre/Stereo Power  A

17. Eternal Arts OTL Mark II    A (but only with loudspeakers with minimum impedance of 8 ohms or higher)

18. Naim Nap 200/Nac 202      A

19. Mcintosh MC 2205              A

20. Mcintosh MC 2125               A

21. Mcintosh C34                     A

21. Mcintosh C33                      A

23. Marantz PM 14                   A

23. Luxman 505u                       A

25. Mcintosh MC 2505 (refurbished by Audioclassica)      A

26. Marantz PM 17M                A-

26. Exposure 2010S2               A-

26. Creek Evolution 50A            A-

29. Mcintosh MA 6300              A-

30. LUA 4040C (tube amp, mid ranges are wunderful)     A-

31. Naim Nait 3 (mid range among the best 8, see comment in the shootout)                                     B+

32. Jeff Rowland Continuum 250 B+ (please see test, it seems so, that we did a mistake)

33. Accuphase E 406V               B

34. Marantz PM 66 KI                  B

35. Sony F670 ES                       B

36. Mcintosh MC 2505 (bought in Ebay)     B

37. Yamaha A 1000                     B

38. Pionner A 616                        B

39. Kenwood KA 990                   B

40. Telefunken TA 750                B-

41. NAD 320 BEE                        B-

42. Rogue Audio Stereo 90          C+ (maybe something was wrong with this unit)

43. Air Tight ATM 300 (see text, loudspeaker Linn 242 not the right match, with other loudspeakers, which have a minimum impedance over 6 Ohm, it is one of the best amps we ever heard)    C

44. Sony TA-N 86B/TA-E 86B (not refurbished) D

PD: The result and rankings of our reviews are always based on the speaker Linn 242Mk3. The results for the amps could be different with other speakers. For example the Harbeths P3ESR speaker are a very easy load for the amps and you can hear even less differences from the amps with these speakers.


Linn 242Mk3 is a very difficult load for the amps and over the years I got the impression in our blind test, that the higher rated power amplifer and more stable amplifier does sound more convincing. 

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